Popular as it may be, the sentiment, “If you build it, they will come,” is unfortunately the biggest pitfall in driving user adoption. The disconnect typically comes from IT thinkers who are comfortable working with the bleeding edge of technology, but have less of an understanding of the process around actually getting users to adopt a new business application.

If you’re not seeing the usage you dreamt of for one of your technology solutions, try the following user adoption tips to address the situation and realize the fruits of your labor.

The Importance of Early Communication

The importance of communicating the purpose and benefits of your solution as soon as you get the green-light cannot be overstated. As an analogy, consider what happens during a construction project. As soon as the construction company obtains the permits needed to start building, a sign goes up on the construction site to let the public know what is going to happen in the coming months, before the foundation is erected. Sometimes, the sign contains visuals depicting what the building will look like.

Adopt this type of approach to announce the launch of your product. Working with your creative department or vendor to display the “building permit” for your application. Start as early as possible and be clear with users about what the final result will be. Don’t worry about the fact that all of the decisions haven’t been made and you don’t have a roadmap to distribute. Incremental communication is critical for building awareness and maintaining interest, especially through periods of design, development and testing. This technique reduces the risk of the awareness problem that unintentionally keeps users away.

Short-Term User Adoption Fixes

Create an immediate uptick by improving the frequency and messaging of your communications. The problem is likely that people simply don’t know that your application exists, or they may not understand why they should change their daily routine. Your communications should clearly address that this new solution is going to save them time, reduce frustration and be more productive in their everyday work. Don’t hesitate to admit that there have been technological gaps or overlaps in the past and that this new solution will provide simplicity.

In addition, be ready with an open communication loop to address problems experienced by your users. Work with your helpdesk and IT team to put FAQs in place and develop several one-page help guides for the more advanced areas of the application. Regularly review the types of issues that your users are facing and keep your training department plugged in so this feedback can be worked into formal training documents and activities.

While reactive communication can help give you a short-term adoption bump, you will need to develop some long-term strategies to keep adoption rates high.

Long-Term Strategies for User Adoption

The best way to approach user adoption is from the beginning with a long-term mindset. Your application must pass the “better off” test, meaning are users better off using your solution than any of the alternatives? If not, I guarantee you that you’ll be underwhelmed by overall usage. This notion is frequently overlooked by IT teams as often thegoal is to merely keep up with the lightning pace of technology rather than provide the appropriate amount functionality that is needed.

On the other hand, it could be that your product is truly useful, but its benefits are poorly communicated. If this is the case, you should take a proactive approach to communication and training to ensure that everyone understands the benefits of your product. Your communications must outline what problem your product solves so that people are immediately motivated to use it.

Applying the theory to practice, suggest a “30 days of [Technology Application]” to your training and marketing counterparts where you will commit to communicating one key feature or benefit to your entire organization for a full calendar month. This type of initiative will help prop baseline usage.

Final Thought for IT Professionals

If people aren’t using your tools, it’s probably because they don’t think it will solve a problem. Or worse they don’t want to fall for the trap of this initiative being the “flavor of the month”. This mindset is best met by solving the better-off test and overly communicating the benefits of the technology until the benefits are obvious and undeniable.

Remember: Process definition always comes first. Lean on your business analysts to make the right recommendations about which features should be rolled out and in what sequence. Don’t fall into the trap of “window shopping,” on other organizations’ sites and deciding to include them in your own solution, without being clear about the problem you are solving.

Keeping these steps in mind will help improve your user adoption goals in both the short and long-term.

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